Lawmakers pass numerous bills before 'spring break'

Missouri senators spent about an hour Thursday — with little debate — passing a dozen bills and sending them to the House for its consideration after next week’s spring break.

And the House debate included abortion and concealed weapons, so the representatives took more than three hours to approve and send their bills to the Senate.

“I think it’s been fairly productive,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. “We’ve moved forward on some pretty important bills, especially related to Missouri’s economic situation and job creation.”

Among those was a 29-3 approval of a worker’s compensation measure.

Sponsor Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, has said the bill returns the state’s law on workplace injuries to the Worker’s Compensation Commission and limits employees’ ability to sue in circuit court.

Critics argued it doesn’t protect those workers suffering from serious, work-related diseases, those who face workplace discrimination and those who are disciplined or fired for reporting what they thought was illegal activity but it wasn’t proven.

Freshman Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, won senators’ support for a bill requiring those convicted of sexual assaults to complete in-prison treatment, education and rehabilitation programs before they are eligible for probation or conditional release.

“When they have offenders who have gone through this program, different results are seen,” Kehoe explained. “(This) gives us a better outcome when that person finishes serving their sentence.”

And Sen. Don Brown, R-Rolla, won colleagues’ 31-1 approval for a bill “that’s very important for sawmills down in my part of the country.”

The measure reclassifies a limited number of sawmills and planing mills as “agricultural and horticultural” property, which means they’re assessed at 19 percent of market value for tax purposes — not at the 33 percent commercial rate.

Among the House bills passed Thursday was Rep. Chris Kelly’s “organ transplant” measure, which authorizes an “Organ Donor Program Fund” checkoff box to be added to the 20 already existing on the state’s individual and corporate income tax forms.

The bill also allows taxpayers to donate to the fund by sending a separate check along with their tax payments.

The organ donor registry currently is funded mainly with contributions made at vehicle license offices, which generally have been dropping in recent years.

And freshman Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, won passage of a measure allowing the Sheriff’s Retirement System to count as a full term any partial term served by a sheriff who won the post in a special election.

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